I’ve been playing the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X-2 for a review (coming very soon). That review’s primary focus will of course be on how much the package succeeds or fails as an enhanced re-release rather than the games themselves. I waxed nostalgic about Final Fantasy X over here, so today I’ll talk about what I like and dislike about Final Fantasy X-2. I messed with this game when it was brand new, but not since. For all intents and purposes, this HD remaster marks my first time with the game.
The first things people seem to talk about when Final Fantasy X-2 comes up are the elaborate costumes, pop idol Yuna, and “What Can I Do For You!?” And for good reason, even apart from the fact that it’s the most memorable line of the opening song. The characters may as well be asking the player this question, “What can I do for you” in reference to the game’s battle system. Can I, for example, become a Black Mage and blast something for you? Can I, maybe, grab some pistols and shoot a monster for you? So goes this game’s best feature.
In Final Fantasy X-2‘s combat, players can make the three leading ladies change from amongst classic Final Fantasy jobs not just outside of battle, but right in the middle. I knew this coming into the game, hadn’t realized how fun it would be.
Less fun is watching the girls play dressup anew with every job change. I even went into the config menu and selected to turn the transition cinemas off (choice are: long, short, or off), but I still have to watch color sweep over the lady, watch her costume change, and watch her strike a cute pose before I can resume my fight.
…But hey, when said fight does resume, it’s great. Combat is generally fun, fast, and engaging. You’ll only be taking three characters through this game: Final Fantasy X‘s Yuna, her cousin Rikku, and newcomer Paine. In every fight, you’ll want to keep an eye on the situation to see if times get tough, then possibly change your tactics with a job swap. All the while, you’ll be choosing which abilities each girl should be learning when acting under that job. Some abilities are hidden until others are mastered, but for the most part, the player is given great freedom in choosing which skills to learn at what time.
Adding another layer of strategy is the Garment Grid. When switching jobs in battle, you don’t just pick from a list, but move among a layout you choose. Bonuses for switching from one certain class to another can be attained and arranged strategically. FFX-2 looks simple, and the pop idol style makes it seem like it would be a complete cakewalk, but there’s much more to this system than meets the eye. I say this, and yet, there have been some battles when I’ve been able to just hold the circle button (will probably be X outside of Japan) to win. I take that as a sign I was nearly overleveled.
I’m a complete sucker for job systems — unlocking new jobs, leveling them up, getting new skills, stuff like that in all its forms — so I dig the general pattern of this game. It allows players to move at their own pace, even telling you what percentage of the story you’ve covered in one part of the airship menu. This should be an option to turn on/off in more RPGs. Moving through FFX-2, you’ll select an area to which to fly Brother’s airship, then land and either take on a story quest (if there is one) or run about finding treasures and doing side stuff.
Some will cry “reused assets!” and curse about the second visit to some of these places, but in a direct sequel like this, I don’t see the problem with it. That gets under my skin if it’s overdone, but it doesn’t strike me as so in this game. It’s fun in X-2 to see the old locations of X and how they’ve changed or how, in other cases, they’ve stayed the same.
Still too high for my liking is that random encounter rate. I know going into Final Fantasy games, or almost any Japanese RPG from the PS2 era and earlier, that there will be random encounters. (Even systems in which enemies can be seen tend to provide their share of unwanted battles.) This doesn’t make it any easier to stomach when the battles bog down other aspects of the game, such as story or exploration. Want to look and see what’s at the end of a path? It’s gonna cost you a battle or two, and knowing that feels deflating. Numerous times in my X-2 play, I’d be fighting a battle a mere three seconds after breaking out of one. The battle system is great, it’s fun, it’s deep, it’s the game’s best feature, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for combat to suffocate the exploration.
Final Fantasy X‘s story was a strength, but the same isn’t true of its sequel. For what she’d gone through, Yuna seems almost a different character entirely, and not for the better. A lot of people will be (and from reading this game’s reputation on the internet this last decade, are) highly turned off by its glitzy look, poppy music, and the emphasis on costumes. A lot of it feels like forced-in excuses to act overly cute. My own eyes even rolled back in the early going when Yuna was forced to dance uncontrollably because her costume was making her do it. This was the first of several cringeworthy moments. The directorial debut of Motomu Toriyama, ladies and gentlemen.
Overall, I’m quite glad this HD version came along and gave me a kick in the pants towards playing Final Fantasy X-2. Had it not, or had the game simply been ported straight to PSN, it may have remained off my radar, and I would have missed out on something rather enjoyable. It’s by no means a perfect game, not even one of my absolute favorite, but one that I am glad to have played.
The version included in this HD remaster is the never-before-seen-in-NA International Version, which includes a special Last Mission, new dress spheres, and other updates, making it worth a second look from those who’ve already completed the standard PS2 game we got back in 2003. But will get to that when the review is posted, eh? Check for it soon here on PlayStation LifeStyle.